MAGTFTC MCAGCC, Calif. -- MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, CALIF. — Chloe Reyes has dreamed of being a nurse for most of her life. After meeting Combat Center Fire Capt. Marcelino Ryan, the Yucca Valley High School senior discovered another career path to consider — firefighter/paramedic.
Reyes was among 56 juniors and seniors from Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley high schools paired with Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center personnel during the School Liaison Office’s 16th annual Job Shadowing Event, Feb. 6, 2019. The event is conducted in partnership with Morongo Unified School District to give students a first-hand look at both military and civilian career fields including law enforcement, welding, mechanics, engineering, cyber security, food service, archaeology, child development, public affairs, marketing, retail sales, utilities and maintenance, range recycling and firefighter/paramedics.
Walter Parham, Combat Center School Liaison officer, welcomed sponsors, teachers and students to the Protestant Chapel before Community Liaison Kimberly Pope connected the students with their sponsors.
“We appreciate all the sponsors who are here,” Parham said before addressing the students.
“Take advantage of the day and see what’s possible for your future,” Parham told them. “I hope everybody has a good experience and a great time today.”
At Fire Station 1, Ryan led a group of five students through the facility, showing them the equipment that firefighter/paramedics use to save lives.
“We do a lot of emergency medicine; quick, chaotic treatment for the patient,” Ryan told the students after letting them inspect the station’s ambulance. “It’s messy, it’s nasty, it’s exciting. The adrenalin is pumping.”
Firefighter/paramedic is a field to consider “if you’re into chaos,” Ryan said. “People are calling 9-1-1 because it’s the worst day of their lives. The ultimate goal is to keep patients alive.”
Reyes, who was inspired to pursue a career in nursing by family members who work in the field, said spending time with Ryan, hearing his stories and seeing what happens inside an ambulance allowed her to experience things she would use in nursing while piquing her interest in becoming a paramedic.
While she’s now undecided about which path she’ll take, Reyes said she will pursue a career in the medical field because “I have a passion for people and I want to see people healthier.”
Over at the Range Sustainment Branch lot on Range Road, Palani Paahana, supervisory UXO specialist, walked Zack Lakes and Kieran Rayl through a day in the life of materiels handlers who process casings and other items collected from the Combat Center’s live-fire training ranges and package them to sell to American recycling companies.
Lakes, a Yucca Valley High School senior, suited up in coveralls and a heat resistant suit while Rayl, a Twentynine Palms High School senior, donned coveralls as Paahana explained the importance of safety gear that includes hardhats, gloves, steel-toed boots and earplugs.
“You picked a good day to do this,” Paahana told Lakes as icy winds pelted the trio on their way to the furnace materials handlers use to melt aluminum and zinc before pouring the molten metals into large sows to create ingots weighing up to 700 pounds. “When it’s 110 degrees out, the guys still have to melt.”
Before raising the door to the furnace, which runs at temperatures as high as 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, Paahana handed Rayl a large industrial rake and instructed him to hand it to Lakes once the door was up.
Once Lakes had the rake in hand, Paahana walked him through stoking the furnace.
“Stand there, put your body back,” Paahana advised. “Good job,” he said once Lakes finished the task.
After the furnace, Lakes and Rayl learned how items such as ammunition cans are shredded into long strips before being packaged into bales, then separated casings that materials handlers Justin Claudio, Alan Popielarz and Sylvester Torres would grind into small pellets.
Lakes, who is undecided about what he wants to do after graduation, said he enjoyed the experience.
“It’s very interesting,” Lakes said of the work done by Paahana and the range recycling crew. “It’s a tough job.”
A couple of streets away at the Exercise Support Division lot on 11th street, Christian Gates of Twentynine Palms and Brett Walker of Yucca Valley learned welding techniques from veteran welder Lesley Hundley. After showing them how to use a blow torch, she let each student practice and create a souvenir to take home.
“It’s fun,” Gates, who aspires to be a professional dirt bike rider, said of welding. “It would be awesome to do for a living.” Walker, who wants to be an auto mechanic, said he appreciated the hands-on experience because it could help him in his chosen field.
Angel Kasser, a Twentynine Palms High School senior who wants to pursue a career in the culinary field in addition to entering the military, was excited to join Cpl. Enid Loera of Food Services to learn what it’s like to feed thousands of Marines and sailors daily.
Loera took Kasser and three other students to sites where they learned how food is processed and stored, and how equipment is maintained before taking them to Phelps Hall, where they watched Marines preparing food and baked goods for lunch service.
Lance Cpls. Alexander Chiquete and Abner Agreda walked the four through the bakery, where cookies and brownies were being baked and placed onto trays, then Lance Cpl. Salim Bayo showed them how chicken breasts are seasoned and Lance Cpl. Emiliano Corralejoaguirre showed them how pasta is cooked in large quantities.
“I’m learning there’s more to it than just cooking,” Kasser said. “There’s delivery, and how things are packaged.”
After spending two hours shadowing personnel, the students headed to Phelps Hall for lunch with their teachers, Parham, and Lori Cosgriff, the school district’s job developer/coach, who worked with Parham to organize the event.
Both Parham and Cosgriff called the event a success, made possible by “great teamwork” by the base and school district.
“Students were able to shadow everything from welding to fire and archaeology to K-9s and child development,” Parham said. “I had a student tell me his day was amazing.”